Programming quotations

December 01, 2009

Jack Ganssle-December 01, 2009

O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

Those words ring with Shakespearian power. Hamlet? King Lear? Actually, the quote comes from the New Testament.

I image the Bible is the most-quoted book of all time. My parents would paraphrase a parable or cite a verse to make a point or correct our behavior. The nuns at St. Camillus did, too, and a sure way to curry favor with them was to quote chapter and verse. Even the most secular couples often use 1 Corinthians 13 in their weddings.

The world abounds in aphorisms that convey wisdom to the young, although that advice is usually ignored. Many aphorisms are by unknown authors: "A stitch in time saves nine" (although anyone who has repaired a sail knows that one stitch can actually save 9,000). "People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones." And many witty people have contributed their own, like this gem from Mae West: "Lead me not into temptation; I can find the way myself."

Pithy quotes and aphorisms can entertain and instruct. Often they do both.

Engineers can turn a clever phrase as well as Mae West. I've collected quips that relate, sometimes unintentionally, to development for many years. Here's some of the best:

Testing by itself does not improve software quality. Test results are an indicator of quality, but in and of themselves, they don't improve it. Trying to improve software quality by increasing the amount of testing is like trying to lose weight by weighing yourself more often. What you eat before you step onto the scale determines how much you will weigh, and the software development techniques you use determine how many errors testing will find. If you want to lose weight, don't buy a new scale; change your diet. If you want to improve your software, don't test more; develop better.
--Steve McConnell

Programming can be fun, so can cryptography; however, they should not be combined.
--Charles Kreitzberg and Ben Shneiderman

The sooner you start to code, the longer the program will take.
--Roy Carls

Our developers never release code. Rather, it tends to escape, pillaging the countryside all around.
--The Enlightenment Project

Perl is the crystal meth of programming: it's so incredibly useful when you need to do a large amount of work in a small amount of time that you tend to overlook the fact that it's basically precipitating the implosion of your vital organs.
--Dan Martinez

Programmers are the tools for converting caffeine into code.

If you lie to the compiler, it will get its revenge.
--Henry Spencer

There are only two industries that refer to their customers as users.
--Edward Tufte

Einstein argued that there must be simplified explanations of nature, because God is not capricious or arbitrary. No such faith comforts the software engineer.
--Fred Brooks, Jr.

To iterate is human, to recurse divine.
--L. Peter Deutsch

Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
--Fred Brooks

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